Traffic Counts, and Development Projects, on the Move Again in Montgomery County, MD - Wells + Associates

Traffic Counts, and Development Projects, on the Move Again in Montgomery County, MD

A new traffic count policy for Montgomery County, Maryland is good news for developers and projects that have been waiting to get back on track. Having navigated the uncertainty from reduced traffic during the pandemic, the Montgomery County Planning Department recently announced a revised policy, effective October 1.

The Planning Department stated that:

  • new traffic counts can be taken after October 1 as long as the County Remains in Phase 2 and 3 of the COVID-19 recovery plan,
  • an adjustment factor is to be applied to newly completed traffic counts, and/or
  • historical counts may be used, with certain restrictions that may apply.

This is a recognition of the “new normal” traffic conditions and is already getting real estate developments and traffic engineering projects back on track, including projects we are working on at Wells + Associates. The County Board was briefed on the updated policy on Thursday, October 1.

Background: Covid-19 Traffic Count Suspension in March 2020

With the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Montgomery County Planning Department announced an interim policy on March 14 to not accept transportation impact studies using traffic counts. The ensuing expansion of telework and the reduction in traffic brought uncertainty into traffic analyses within Montgomery County.

In early May, the Department’s policy was updated to reflect changing conditions and to allow the use of existing counts taken prior to the pandemic, with potential modifications.

Now that we are half a year into the pandemic, the Planning Department’s September 17 memo finally acknowledged a “new normal” in traffic patterns, stating that “it will take quite a while for traffic volumes to slowly return to pre-pandemic levels.”

The New Traffic Count Policy for Montgomery County Projects

Under the new policy, the Planning Department stated that new counts must be adjusted by a factor to account for Montgomery County Public Schools not being in session in-person. The calculated adjustment factor of 1.07 must be applied for certain peak-hour periods.

The use of historical counts has been confirmed under the new policy, based on an interim policy announced in April. Historical counts generally taken within the last three years will continue to be accepted with certain restrictions. For example, a traffic impact study in support of a preliminary plan or site plan application may proceed if there are existing counts for all critical intersections that were collected within three years of the application.

Please contact us to understand exactly how the policy affects your project, including which adjustment factors may be required.